Federal judge stays order demanding DACA recipients’ personal data
BROWNSVILLE, TX — U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen has stayed his May 19 order requiring the federal government to turn over the personal data of tens of thousands of immigrant youth who received three-year work authorizations through the Obama administration’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. Hanen issued an order today that stays his May 19 order “pending the outcome of” a hearing he set for Aug. 22, after the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in United States v. Texas, the lawsuit challenging the administration’s 2014 immigration executive actions.
“This decision rightly puts a stop, for now, to an indefensible order that could have exposed tens of thousands of blameless youth to privacy and safety threats,” said Karen Tumlin, legal director at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). “Though we’ve always known that this order is out of bounds and should never take effect, we are glad that Judge Hanen has at least decided to wait for the Supreme Court to provide some guidance in this case before taking a step that would cause irreversible harm to thousands of immigrant youth.”
The decision comes after four individuals, represented by NILC, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Texas, petitioned the Fifth Circuit for a writ of mandamus, a rarely used legal tool that allows someone who is not party to a case, but who is hurt by a court order, to seek immediate relief from a higher court.
“This order addresses the immediate threat to DACA recipients’ personal information. It is an important victory, but not a permanent fix. We will continue to fight for a ruling that fully safeguards immigrants’ privacy rights,” said Omar Jadwat, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
Hanen is the judge on the federal district court in Brownsville, Texas, who first heard United States v. Texas, a lawsuit by Texas and 25 other states that seeks to block the Obama administration’s 2014 deferred action immigration initiatives, known as DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) and the expansion of DACA. He issued a nationwide injunction blocking both programs in February 2015.
Last month, Hanen asked the federal government for the names, addresses, and other identifiers of about 50,000 young immigrants who live in the 26 states that brought the lawsuit and received three-year work authorizations through a separate deferred action initiative, DACA, which the Obama administration announced in June 2012. That program’s legality is not being challenged by the states.
“I had the reasonable expectation that the information attached to my DACA application would remain confidential,” said Juan Escalante, a 27-year-old Florida resident who is one of the four people who petitioned the Fifth Circuit for a writ of mandamus. “Judge Hanen’s stay is certainly good news, but it only provides temporary relief for those of us who are worried about our private information getting into the wrong hands. The fact still remains that I should have control over my personal information, as I have a right to privacy.”
Angelica Villalobos, a 31-year-old mother from Oklahoma who is another of the mandamus petitioners, said, “I’m proud that my three friends and I have stood up to Judge Hanen’s bullying. This is a big deal—it means that the address and personal information of me and my kids won’t be handed over to anti-immigrant judge.
“For now, our privacy and security is protected, along with that of 50,000 other immigrant youth,” Villalobos added. “Now I want the Supreme Court to make a final decision on DAPA and expanded DACA so we can get to work helping more people get protected from deportation!”
Greisa Martínez, advocacy director for United We Dream, said, "Immigrant youth and our allies did what we do best: stand up to bullies and stand up for our community. For now, the privacy and security of the ‘fearless four’ and 50,000 immigrant youth continues to be protected.
“But this fight isn't over, and we're not backing down,” Martínez said. “The Supreme Court must decide to put an end to these political attacks on the dignity of our friends and community. Thank you to the fearless four, thank you to the amazing legal team. No matter what the anti-immigrant politicians might like to think, we are #heretostay.”
The United States also sought to block this portion of the court’s order by filing a separate writ of mandamus. And the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund also filed an amicus brief in support of blocking the transmission of Dreamers’ private information.
The 2012 DACA initiative allows some young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to live and work in the country temporarily if they meet certain eligibility requirements. DAPA and the expansion of DACA, announced in 2014, built upon the success of that program by extending similar benefits to additional immigrant youth and certain undocumented parents of American children.
“Thanks to the courage of young immigrants to stand up for their rights, their constitutional privacy protections remain safe from unjustified government intrusion for now,” said Edgar Saldivar, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “We will remain ever vigilant of threats to the civil rights and liberties of the most vulnerable and stand ready to defend them.”
Hanen’s order is available at: http://www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/TX-v-US-order-re-8-22-16-hearing-and-stay.pdf